The struggle to find bomb natural hair products is real. Store shelves are oversaturated with them, and many claim to deliver similar results — whether it’s a hella-defined wash-and-go or fleeky edges. Maryland-based freelance hairstylist Keisha George breaks down the stylers best equipped to slay all the lewks you love to serve.
For HD Curls: Custard vs. Cream
We love a good wash-and-go, but tbh, you won’t really be able to “go” if you’re using the wrong natural hair products. And what are the right products, exactly? Do you use a custard, a cream, a gel? It’s a dil.em.ma.
Consider your hair texture and curl pattern when deciding on the right picks, suggests George. For tighter curls, a custard’s strong hold can help combat shrinkage by stretching the curls out. And for multitextured manes (most of us, really), custard can give the illusion that your curls are all one texture due to its gel-like consistency.
“A custard is kind of like a gel and a cream mixed together,” says George. “It gives you a [piecier] look.”
If you have a looser curl pattern or don’t experience much shrinkage, try a cream. “A cream is going to hold your curls right where they dry, so it’s not going to give you any stretch,” says George. “It’s still going to give you some definition, and it’s going to get rid of the frizz.”
Kinky-Curly Curling Custard or Suave Professionals for Natural Hair Curl Defining Cream
For Hella Hold: Mousse vs. Gel
To hold it down for those curls without weighing them down? Opt for mousse — it’s light and flexible. “Mousse is my starter for hold,” says George. “There’s something in mousse that gives [your hair memory].” It basically trains your hair to go in a certain direction.
Been there, tried that, but it still always ends in a frizzy fail? Apply oil first to prevent frizz and shrinkage as your locks dry, suggests George. Finger comb your curls to see how they turn out, and mix in some gel if you need a lil’ extra hold.
If you’re that girl with various textures going on at once, the gel-only route may be your answer. Like custard, gel stretches and holds your curls, while simultaneously making ‘em pop. It’ll give you a more uniform look, whereas mousse would make each separate pattern stand out.
SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curling Gel Soufflé or TGIN Rose Water Curl Defining Mousse
For Serious Sleekness: Pomade vs. Edge Control
When it comes to a sleek ponytail, do not sleep on pomade. Available in either petroleum-based or water-based formulations, both types come through with the smoothness. The water-based recipe, though, gives greater flexibility.
As for edge control? Use it solely for your edges.
“A lot of edge controls out there are so heavy; they don’t have any flexibility, so once it’s on the hair, it makes that section of hair stick,” says George. “Let’s say I wanted to do an updo and I’m using edge control, and I don’t like where I positioned it, and I need to move it. Edge control is thicker, so I can’t move it as much. With the pomade, I can go back and kind of brush it through, and then, I can apply more and reposition where I’m putting this ponytail or where I’m styling this hair,” she continues. “I can do a whole ponytail with pomade, and then, I might come back in with edge control around the whole outer perimeter to give it more hold.”
Apply edge control at night, tie a silk scarf around your hairline, and touch things up in the morning, if necessary. This helps the product settle into your scalp, moisturize your hair, and lay your baby hairs down.
Carol’s Daughter Mimosa Hair Honey Shine Pomade or Urban Hydration Honey Pro Edge Control
For All The Shine: Serum vs. Sheen Spray
When rockin’ a silk press, an appropriate amount of shine is a must. And for natural tresses, George always recommends maintaining that shine with a serum because of its built-in heat protectant.
“It’s also sealing the hair and telling it, ‘I want you to stay straight,’” she says. “Sheen [spray] will give you shine, but if you use too much of it and you’re out in the heat and humidity, it’s going to revert.”
If you wear your hair relaxed, you can go with either product — an oil sheen will add moisture and luster to your strands without the excess heaviness of a straight up oil, and a lightweight serum can do the same. “If you need to pin or wrap your hair, you can spray oil sheen through it, which will help penetrate it,” says George.
L’Oréal Paris Elvive Smooth Intense Frizz Taming Hair Serum or Afro Sheen Glow Up Sheen Spray